For many young people, involvement in drama has been known to improve their confidence and sense of their own self-worth, as well as providing a feeling of belonging in the process of creating something. For children from deprived backgrounds, opportunities like these are even more important. Enter CIC provides just these kinds of experiences for children in the North East. They look to provide a stable basis for all aspects of their life in the future through creative projects.
On the 11th-12th June 2013 at the Gala Theatre, Durham, Enter CIC’s new musical production, The Wind Road Boys, will relay a history of mining in the North East, being performed again after previous success. I spoke to Glen Joseph, a professional actor in the West End whom Enter CIC has employed, amongst others, to work with its children to create this production. Working with children and inspiring them has been one of Enter CIC’s aims in bringing in professional actors to the show. “The kids are amazing, they’re the stars of show – we’ve really had to bring up our game”, says Glen. The energy and dedication of this company has seen two weeks of rehearsals with the professionals, but twelve weeks for the children overall. Inevitably, this has been an intense process, but Glen notes the incredible camaraderie that has really brought the production together.
Glen plays a miner, George Turner, who at 94 has been moved to a hospice as the mines are being shut and have faded into obscurity. George speaks to James Walthall, the son of a developer, who wants to buy out the mines. George reveals the mines’ history to make sure their heritage is preserved in the future. Glen emphasised that the local area is presented as a heritage site, rather than simply a business opportunity for a corporate company taking over. Although the aim is to preserve the history and legacy of the miners, its dangers are not concealed.
Within the spirit of Enter CIC, Glen proves that it is possible for someone from the North East to get to the West End. Although he was not involved in the programme when he was younger, he is surely proof that outreach programmes like these have the potential to not only be successful, but also crucial for providing a stepladder towards a different life. Glen himself was from a rugby background, and his grandfather worked on the ships, but he has been able to forge his own path in musical theatre. Glen emphasised the necessity of moving to London to succeed in the business, something that many industry professionals know only too well; however, he said, “this will always be our home”. Of course, the heritage of the North East is what makes The Wind Road Boys so important for those creating it, but also the production’s spectators. Glen didn’t realise how much he would learn from his research conducted around Beamish. It is therefore an educational experience for both, reinforcing the history of the people that live and work in a society founded on the mining industry.
Glen demonstrated his pride as a North East performer being able to make his experience of use to those at home. And pride has been at the forefront of the production process. The drama- what Glen referred to as “the ecstasy and agony of the mining industry”- is reinforced with the music of the production. Glen made it clear that this is not a play with music. The original score was written by Paul Flynn, the songs being integral to the story-telling process. The songs are moving, pride being at their core, but there is also a lot of comedy.
The musical presents intimate, mining communities. Having moved to London, Glen says, “I’m from Newcastle, and am now a city dweller in London. But The Wind Road Boys is about community, which can be forgotten in a city.” I saw a production at the Gala last year called Close The Coalhouse Door, by Alan Plater. Similarly to The Wind Road Boys the play focused on the history and impact of mining on the North East. The thing that most struck me about the play was its audience, mostly comprised of ex-miners. The reception that they gave to historical mining figures was astonishing, booing and clapping the characters that had impacted on their lives. It demonstrated how important their livelihoods were to them. Productions like these are not just musicals and plays: they are living testaments to something that was not just a job, but a way of life that – as we have seen with the recent death of Baroness Thatcher – will not be soon forgotten.
The Wind Road Boys shows at The Gala Theatre, Durham on the 11th-12th June 2013. For more information look here.
For more information on Enter CIC, take a look at their website here.